Lingotto Fiere - Turin
By Michele Robecchi
With over 47,000 visitors over three days, the 17th edition of Artissima has been unanimously declared a winner. It’s a remarkable result, if one considers the unfortunate time of the year in which the Italian art fair takes place, right at the end of a long string of sister events that started with Art Forum Berlin in October and continued with Frieze and FIAC, and only two weeks before Art Basel Miami. But even discounting public figures (which don’t necessarily make for a totally favorable outcome, as the wretched quality of the visitors at Frieze this year testifies), the fair sent a strong message to all those who thought that the current financial recession, coupled with its reputation for preferring sophistication over commercial success, would have been Artissima’s proverbial last nail in the coffin.
The new director, Francesco Manacorda, went for a creative, if not aggressive, approach. His fingerprints are immediately visible, and the fact that in such a short period of time he managed to make the transition smooth while establishing a radical transformation on the way is a credit to his ability. A curator with solid credentials, Manacorda turned the Thomas Dane Gallery into a movie theatre on the occasion of one of his first exhibitions, “A Certain Tendency in Representation - Cineclub” (2005); for “Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art” at the Barbican Art Centre (2008), he and co-curator Lydia Yee imagined an extraterrestrial museum put together by a group of spatial anthropologists, with the scope of introducing the mystery of contemporary art to their fellow aliens; finally, there was “Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet” (2009), an ecologist survey that blurred the line between architects and artists by putting them in the condition to dialogue on the same ground. Such curriculum suggests that Manacorda is prone to a methodology that improves art’s fruition by its decontextualization and repositioning. Tempered by the obvious limits dictated by the fair format, this seems to have worked. The cultural program, which included events curated by Thomas Boutoux, Anthony Huberman, Raimundas Malasauskas, and Joseph Pesco, amongst others, was of exceptional variety; the selection of galleries was good and not at all predictable. The Oval, the 20,000 square meters pavilion, built on the occasion of the Winter Olympic Games in 2006, proved to be an excellent location choice. Two sore spots were Raumlabor’s “House of Contaminations,” a venue inside the venue designed to host the various events that, although fun to navigate, was overly theatrical and a bit of a distraction; and “Back to the Future,” a new section representing the (by now) trite tendency to scoop in reverse, rediscovering artists from the past and putting them in a more contemporary ghetto. Still, the future looks bright. Artissima emerges from this edition with a stronger identity and a promising vision. The only possible loose end left to fix is of financial nature. Marked by years of absence of a proper art event in their turf, a large part of local collectors took the habit to travel and do their business somewhere else. Now that the internal competition of Milan and Bologna is definitely destroyed, it’s a matter of stepping to the next level, and making sure that the fair’s international credibility will be matched by monetary revenue.
(November 5-7, 2010)
Filed Under: Reviews